A lightweight, built by British defence and security technology company QinetiQ has broken a world record for unmanned flight by staying aloft for 54 hours more than 50,000 feet above the New Mexico desert, announced the defense research company QinetiQ.
The Zephyr High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is a lightweight unmanned aircraft which uses a combination of a solar array and batteries to power its flights. The plane weights a relatively low 31kg and has a wingspan of about 18 metres.
The duration of the flight exceeded the current official FAI world record for unmanned flight which stands at 30 hours 24 minutes set by Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4A Global Hawk on 22 March 2001. However because there was no FAI official present at White Sands it may not stand as an official world record.
Launched by hand, Zephyr is an ultra-lightweight carbon-fibre aircraft with a wingspan of up to 18 metres but weighing just 30 kg. By day it flies on solar power generated by amorphous silicon arrays no thicker than sheets of paper that cover the aircraft’s wings. By night it is powered by rechargeable lithium-sulphur batteries that are recharged during the day using solar power.
Watch the Zephyr takeoff video .
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